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From 1973 to 1975 a new Australian Government led by Gough Whitlam actively pursued plans to develop regional and sub-metropolitan Growth Centres with significantly boosted populations following a national strategy published in June 1973 which mapped a national coverage of prospective locations. The intention was for these centres to alleviate pressure on the capital cities considered overcrowded and deteriorating in efficiency and quality of life. The controversial dismissal of the Whitlam Government in 1975 signalled the winding back and effective demise of the programme. This paper examines the population projections for the centres under official consideration to 2000 and their actual growth. Despite the criticisms attached to this programme, several centres came close to achieving their population targets for 2000. Moreover, if Federal Government support had been sustained, more may have exceeded their projections. The implications for a resurgent national settlement policy are considered.
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Revisiting the Australian Government’s Growth
Centres program 1972–1975
Julian Bolleter, Robert Freestone, Robert Cameron, George Wilkinson &
Paula Hooper
To cite this article: Julian Bolleter, Robert Freestone, Robert Cameron, George Wilkinson & Paula
Hooper (2021): Revisiting the Australian Government’s Growth Centres program 1972–1975,
Planning Perspectives, DOI: 10.1080/02665433.2021.1885479
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/02665433.2021.1885479
Revisiting the Australian Governments Growth Centres program
19721975
Julian Bolleter
a
, Robert Freestone
b
, Robert Cameron
a
, George Wilkinson
a
and
Paula Hooper
a
a
Australian Urban Design Research Centre, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia;
b
School of Built Environment,
University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
ABSTRACT
From 1973 to 1975 a new Australian Government led by Gough Whitlam
actively pursued plans to develop regional and sub-metropolitan Growth
Centres with signicantly boosted populations following a national strategy
published in June 1973 which mapped a national coverage of prospective
locations. The intention was for these centres to alleviate pressure on the
capital cities considered overcrowded and deteriorating in eciency and
quality of life. The controversial dismissal of the Whitlam Government in
1975 signalled the winding back and eective demise of the programme.
This paper examines the population projections for the centres under ocial
consideration to 2000 and their actual growth. Despite the criticisms
attached to this programme, several centres came close to achieving their
population targets for 2000. Moreover, if Federal Government support had
been sustained, more may have exceeded their projections. The implications
for a resurgent national settlement policy are considered.
KEYWORDS
New cities; Decentralization;
Growth Centres; Gough
Whitlam
Introduction
In the rst half of the 1970s there were serious moves in Australia to embark on a large-scale process of
new city building. Initially, under the Liberal-Country Party (conservative) government headed by
Prime Minister William McMahon (197172) and subsequently and more vigorously under a Labor
administration (left of centre) led by Gough Whitlam (197275), a national Growth Centre programme
evolved. Against a backdrop of enduring interest in the new town idea internationally
1
, these moves
were the culmination of growing professional and popular concerns developing through the 1960s
that the Australian urban population was too imbalanced. The major problems were the big coastal
cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne, while purposeful regional development languished.
The desired decentralization of population and industry was a longstanding theme ofnational devel-
opment thinking. However, one critical juncture from the late 1960s was to link this to more selective
programmes focused on expanded and new regional centres rather than ineectually dispersing incen-
tives across many rural centres. The question of an optimum city size was debated. The other decisive
change in thinking was to elevate these concerns to the federal level rather than debate them within the
context of the ultimately competitive policies of six separate state governments.
Labor Prime Minister Whitlam was elected to oce on a platform which elevated urban issues to
national prominence, an unprecedented breakthrough in Australian national politics. His conservative
predecessor McMahon had belatedly picked up their appeal in both urban and rural electorates ahead of
the national election in November 1972 and established a federal authority todevelop a new cities pro-
gramme. Labor upon winning oce worked with this institutional initiative but embedded it within a
much larger bureaucratic structure devoted to a raft of urban and regional development policies. Aspira-
tions at a time of accelerating metropolitan growth and the entrenching of socio-spatial inequalities
were high.
2
While new patterns of metropolitan and regional growth ensued, the promise of a funda-
mentally restructured approach to national urban development was not delivered. Some commentators
acknowledge redeeming reforms but a lasting senseof failure attaches to the legacy of theGrowth Centre
programme.
3
So were the original projections and expectations completely divorced from reality?
This paper revisits the 1970s Growth Centre programme primarily through re-investigating the
selection of centres, the specication of population growth targets, and the extent to which these
were achieved through contemporary and later development. While the growth centres of this
era have not been neglected in planning history
4
, there has been little retrospective demographic
analysis to understand the degree to which actual growth related to the original population targets.
The one exception is Lloyd and Anderton
5
who examined the percentage population growth of the
centres using 1981 and 1986 census data. Theirs is a progenitor of this paper which considers
growth projections for 2000 against the achieved populations for the census year 2001. The central
research question, which guides our enquiry, is: to what extent did the Whitlam Governments
nominated Growth Centres achieve their population projections for the year 2000? Attempting
to answer it provides insights into the origins of and the reception to the programme.
The paper is structuredin the following manner.The initial backgroundsection sets out the institutional
setting in which the Growth Centres programme was conceived and then we explore the main drivers
behind the policy x which emerged. It also provides an overview of the Growth Centres programme,
how the Growth Centres were selected, and how their population projections were calculated. In the
methods section, we set out the quantitative techniques used to evaluate the success or otherwise of the
Growth Centres in meeting their population targets. The subsequent discussion section considers what fac-
tors lay behind the uneven results and reects on population change in the Growth Centre study areas from
1973 to 2001. We sought to understand whether there is a relationship between population growth and some
of the key variables which the Cities Commission proposed should inform centre selection.
6
These include
the size of the existing population, proximity to a capital city or the coast, available infrastructure, employ-
ment opportunities, and whether the Growth Centre had the support of the respective state government. The
paper concludes with brief reections on the contemporary promotion of a National Settlement Strategy.
Background
Establishing a federal framework for new cities
In late October 1972, immediately before a national election, the McMahon Government estab-
lished a National Urban and Regional Development Authority (NURDA) for Australia. Its main
role was to advise the government on matters relating to urban or regional development.While
not formally specied in federal legislation, the intent was to work with state governments to ident-
ify regional and sub-metropolitan places as national Growth Centres. Heading the authority was Sir
John Overall, the recently retired chief of the National Capital Development Commission (NCDC)
which had planned and developed the national capital of Canberra into Australias largest inland
city since 1958. The deputy commissioner was Robert Lansdown who had also come from the
NCDC. The de facto commitment to a Canberra model of modernist garden city planning for
decentralized urban development was clear, and Lansdown
7
had already lauded it as an exemplar.
The major task of NURDA was to prepare a report on Commonwealth participation in a national
ve-year programme of urban and regional development by June 1973.
Following the election of the Australian Labor Party to government on 2 December 1972, the
pledged Department of Urban and Regional Development (DURD) was created to carry out the
Governments urban agenda. NURDA was re-formed as the Cities Commission. The Whitlam
Government decided that the Cities Commission should realize NURDAs statutory responsibility
and advise the Government on a programme of Australian Government support for regional and
metropolitan growth centres.
8
The Commission was a small multi-disciplinary organization of
engineers, town planners, economists, geographers, sociologists, and other professionals.
9
Within
the new federal ministry under the political leadership of Tom Uren, the Cities Commission was to
act as a professional consultantto the DURD in physical planning exercises with special reference
to the establishment of new cities and assisting in their early stages of development.
10
The relationship between DURD with its sweeping agenda of social and economic reform and
the physicalist approach of the Cities Commission steeped in NCDC culture was not always
smooth. Eventually, Uren introduced into Parliament the Cities Commission (Repeal) Bill which
was to replace it with a Bureau of Cities within DURD. The Act was assented to on 11 November
1975 just before the dismissal of the Whitlam Government. The latter event was a tumultuous time
in Australian political history.
11
The collateral damage was the end of the DURD experiment, and
with it, any sustained federal commitment to growth centres as the Liberals returned to oce under
Malcolm Fraser.
DURDs policy targets were varied: urban land reform, addressing service backlogs - in particu-
lar sewerage provision in outer metropolitan suburbs - upgrading social infrastructure, rehabilita-
tion of old inner-city housing, urban conservation, and enhancement of the role of local
government. Many centred on the principle of regionalism within the capital cities - the idea of
lessening development pressures on Central Business Districts, and to encourage more coherent
and better serviced urban development in outer areas driven by notions of spatial justice.
12
To insiders, DURDs programmes represented innovative and timely centralized interventions
in the processes of Australian city development underpinned by a commitment to social demo-
cratic reform.
13
To its critics, which in due course became larger in number as neoliberalism
became the prevailing political orthodoxy from the 1980s, DURD was a big-spending ideological
upstart unresponsive to localism and administrative convention. Painter damned DURD as pre-
tentious,awaste of expenditure,and a lethal combination of ideological and technocratic
7
Lansdown, Canberra: An Exemplar for Many Decentralised Australian Cities.
8
Neilson, The New Cities Programme.
9
Cities Commission, First annual report November 1972 - June 1973.
10
Ibid.
11
Kelly and Bramston, The Dismissal: In the Queens name.
12
Orchard, Shifting Visions in National Urban and Regional Policy 2.
13
Lloyd and Troy, Innovation and Reaction.
zealousness.
14
Phil Day, himself a state government bureaucrat, argued that DURD was deplorably
ill-conceived:
You cannot administer a three million square mile continent by remote control from the incestuous
isolation of Canberra. Your chances are even less if, on to the proliferating bureaucratic bandwagon,
you allow to climb a spendthrift array of doctrinaire theorists, trendy but inexperienced enthusiasts,
arrogant power-seekers, and assorted party hangers-on.
15
The case for decentralization
The Whitlam Government justied its programme of population decentralization through several
arguments that stemmed from the perception that existing cities were in crisisand that this would
be exacerbated by the anticipated doubling of Australias population by 2000. Most population pro-
jections at this time worked with this 30-year timeframe to the turn of the twenty-rst century that
help dene the growth expectations and benchmark the performance for the recentralization of
growth into new urban centres. The blueprint was laid out in A Recommended New Cities Pro-
gramme report which NURDA had been established to prepare and which arrived on time by
mid-1973.
16
In the late 1960s, the perception that Australias capital cities were in a state of crisis was wide-
spread.
17
The crisis encompassed supposed suburban ugliness, overcrowding, disease, congestion,
pollution, societal segmentation, and even a lingering Cold War fear of the vulnerability of over-
concentration in war.
18
These concerns were not uniquely Australian; the United Nations, in
1970 reported that the urban crisiswas second only to the issue of ensuring world peace.
19
The
relativities of the crisis were nonetheless stark, with Australias continental population in the
early 1970s of 13 million about half that of Tokyo, the worlds largest city at the time.
Nevertheless, one of the most damning critiques was the imbalance in population and economic
opportunity between cities and regional areas.
20
The perception of overconcentration in cities
reected an emerging professional consensus that when a city reached 2,000,000 people, the advan-
tages that stem from size were exhausted.
21
While there were some oerings which are usually only
available in large cities, like opera houses and stock exchanges, commentators felt that these were the
exception to the rule. In this respect, DURD accepted the notion that the signicant benets of a large
city, with the minimum of shortcomings, could be enabled with a population of 100,000500,000
people.
22
Hence, Sydneys and Melbournes projected growth to over 4.5 million apiece by the
year 2000 would compound the nationsurban and social diculties.
23
Decentralization proponents believed Australian cities were not just overcrowded but also wor-
sening as human environments.
24
Relating large cities to various types of pathology was
14
Painter, Urban Government, Urban Politics and the Fabrication of Urban Issues, 344.
15
Day, The Regional Mirage, 40.
16
Cities Commission, Report to the Australian Government.
17
Goldsmith and Conner, Resolutions of Canberra Forum 1970; Llewellyn-Smith, Canberra forum 1970towards the cities of the 21st
century.
18
Bolleter, The ghost cities of Australia.
19
In Cheung, Balanced Development.
20
Lonsdale, Manufacturing Decentralization.
21
Neutze, The Case for New Cities in Australia.
Bolleter, The ghost cities of Australia: A Survey of New City Proposals and Their Lessons for Australias 21st Century Development.
22
Cities Commission, Report to the Australian Government.
23
Cities Commission, First annual report November 1972 - June 1973, 14.
24
Cities Commission, Report to the Australian Government.
commonplace.
25
Of the situation in American cities, Ian McHarg similarly implored that the heart
of the city is the heart of pathology and there is a great concentration of all types of pathology encir-
cling it.
26
The Cities Commission reproduced health data that resonated with such characterizations.
27
Data concerning the admission of psychiatric patients in Victoria revealed that a man residing
in a city was three times more probable to be admitted for alcoholism and over two times more
probable to be admitted for personality disorders than one living in a regional area.
28
Such health
data led the Commission to conclude that large cities had rates for physiological and mental illness,
crime and juvenile delinquency and social stress higher than the national average.
29
These charac-
terizations were compounded as commentators also observed that air and water pollution in Aus-
tralias capital cities were appalling. Population centralization was identied as the signicant
causal factor.
30
Some critics went further to portray cities as also a threat to civility –‘morality,
delinquency, law and order all being regarded as being worse in the citythan in regional
areas.
31
Such sentiments echoed the anti-urbanism of early generations of urban reformers at
the genesis of the town planning movement.
Some commentators felt that the capital cities were also declining in eciency.
32
Indeed,
increasing trac congestion and gruelling commutes from outer suburban areas, became standard
features of the mainland capital cities from the 1970s onwards.
33
In particular, the Whitlam Gov-
ernment was concerned about the sprawl of Melbourne and Sydney. As the Cities Commission
explained, most residential expansion was on the fringe, and people living there were faced with
a limited range of job opportunities or the alternative of increasingly long and expensive journeys
to work. Moreover, because low-density suburbs had sprawled so far in the big cities, many sub-
urban dwellers lacked eective access to a wide range of urban services.
34
Trac congestion was having a disproportionate impact on struggling outer suburban commu-
nities.
35
In line with such assessments, Hugh Stretton oered the idea that the poor were more
deprived compared to the rich in large cities than in modest sized towns and cities.
36
International
commentators such as William Alonso while not necessarily endorsing new town policies lent sup-
port in similarly contending that big cities impose role-segmented contacts on people and keep
them from knowing each other as whole persons.
37
Due to the scale and impersonality of the
city, people cannot understand the forces that aect their destinies and consequently experience
alienation.
38
In contrast, smaller new towns delivered a human-scaled focus for housing, school-
ing, jobs, shopping, and recreation to thus aord deep and enduring relationships.
39
25
Bolleter, The ghost cities of Australia.
26
McHarg, Design with nature, 193.
27
Bolleter, The ghost cities of Australia.
28
Cities Commission, Report to the Australian Government.
29
Ibid.
30
Lonsdale, Decentralization: The American Experience and its Relevance for Australia. Widdows, Country v. City: A Study of Attitudes
to Country and City Living in a Small Country Town.
31
Widdows, Country v. city: A Study of Attitudes to Country and City Living in a Small Country Town, 201.
32
Alonso, The Mirage of New Towns.
33
Lonsdale, Decentralization: The American Experience and its Relevance for Australia.
34
Cities Commission, Second Annual Report for Year 1973-74.
35
Bolleter, The ghost cities of Australia: A Survey of New City Proposals and Their Lessons for Australias 21st Century Development.
36
Stretton, Ideas for Australian Cities.
37
Alonso, The Mirage of New Towns, 12.
38
Ibid.
39
Ibid.
Growth Centre selection
The denition of growth centres was informed by international best practice such as the British
New Towns and contemporary theoretical and policy discourse on growth poles and balanced
regional development.
40
Canberra was a benchmark in terms of both the land acquisition and
development process as well as standards of physical planning, as noted earlier. Moreover, a work-
ing denition had emerged from the work of NCDC urban economist Ray Archer in designating
two distinct new city types: sub-metropolitan corridor or system cities(also known as metro
towns) and non-metropolitan regional cities.
41
The Australian Institute of Urban Studies, formed
in 1966, accepted this distinction in championing new city thinking in the early 1970s.
42
The Cities Commission articulated eight key criteria to inform the choice of centres.
43
First, was
whether its location could advance the welfareof other cities by relieving their pressures of expan-
sion. Second, the potential centre required existing growth impetus based upon resources, basic
industries, or export industries. Third, was whether the potential centre had a satisfactory resource
base, the major requirements being sucient and suitable land, water, power, social and rec-
reational facilities and opportunities, and liveable climatic conditions. Fourth, was a stipulation
that a centre must not negatively impact upon the environment of the region. The fth was for
a potential centre to oer some access to an existing capital city to retain familial links and big-
city opportunities through the development phase. Sixth, and in the fullness of time, centres them-
selves should have the potential to oer new opportunities for a variety of lifestyles as well as the
expectation of adequate income, better education and diverse culture and leisure activities.
Seventh, potential centres should be within the existing national infrastructure of capital invest-
mentsand in particular connected by ecient and eective multi-modal transportation links.
Finally, federal choices should align with existing state government initiatives wherever possible.
The actual choice of centres weighed the above criteria against several existing places and known
initiatives which had already emerged at state government level. In the short time within which a
comprehensive analysis and set of recommendations had to be made, the identication and evalu-
ation of centres depended signicantly on sifting through this known activity rather than a critical
de novo application of the criteria from a national perspective. The Cities Commission in conjunc-
tion with state governments eventually identied a series of study areas but outsourced the primary
data collection on prospective locations to consultants Gutteridge Haskins & Davey (Figure 1).
Economic, social, physical and planning studies indicated these centres were either regarded as
having signicant potential for accelerated growth or were centres to which State Governments had
already politically committed.
44
The Growth Centres programme was a venture in co-operative
federalism, meaning a pragmatic arrangement factoring in what the States were likely to accept.
45
Albury-Wodonga proved a happy conjunction of judgment and political expediency. Since the
early 1960s both cities had routinely surfaced in selective decentralization studies by the New
South Wales (NSW) and Victorian State Governments and the twin city idea was endorsed early
by Gough Whitlam when Leader of the Opposition (196772) as the outstanding choice for a
major initiative in trilateral federalism. However, many Growth Centres considered and later
backed by the Federal Government were nominated independently by state governments. Monarto
40
Hall et al., The Containment of Urban England.
41
Archer, From New Towns to Metrotowns and Regional Cities.
42
Australian Institute of Urban Studies, First Report of the Task Force on New Cities for Australia.
43
Cities Commission, Report to the Australian Government, 25, 26.
44
Neilson, The New Cities Programme.
45
Lloyd and Anderton, From Growth Centres to Growth Centres?:
(a greeneld site outside of Adelaide in South Australia) and Bathurst-Orange (in central-western
NSW) seemed to have been almost foisted on DURD.
46
The study areas in other states similarly had
mostly already been reconnoitred by state governments as prospective locations for accelerated
development.
Growth Centre projections
The Growth Centres had substantial population targets for the year 2000 (Table 1). Such targets
reected the anticipated doubling of Australias population by 2000 and high growth rates through-
out the 1960s and early 1970s.
47
DURD generally preferred boosted regional Growth Centres such as Albury-Wodonga that
could, in time, achieve a population of 100,000500,000.
48
The optimistic view was that boosted
regional centres could, in time, become the mother city of a network of centres.
49
The concept
of a polycentric settlement system appeared in the planning for both Bathurst-Orange (with a
new intermediate town named Vittoria) and Albury-Wodonga (with the new towns of Thurgoona
and Middle Creek/Barandudah). These proposed polycentric structures evoked Ebenezer Howards
polycentric garden city networks constellations of modest-sized centres separated by generous
open spaces as well as reecting the new townsuburban structure for metropolitan Canberra
from the late 1960s.
50
Figure 1. A federal plan for cities: This map shows the proposed study areas for the Growth Centres programme.
Source: Redrawn by the authors from Cities Commission (1973).
46
Ibid.
47
Cities Commission, Report to the Australian Government.
48
Bolleter, The ghost cities of Australia.
49
Freestone, The garden city idea in Australia.
50
Ibid.
Growth Centre thinking was based on the notion that publicly owned corporations would be
created to obtain broadacre land and to develop and market it. So the selection of preferred Growth
Centres carried signicant nancial obligations. Commonwealth loan funds would be utilized as
this would not provide unfair nancial advantages to the corporations in comparison to private
developers. The development corporations would also be tasked to facilitate and plan for the
balanced developmentof the centre.
51
Hence, the Australian Government was to provide support and assistance to the State Govern-
ments for Growth Centre projects in the form of nancial assistance by the provision of loan money
including assistance with detailed planning and technical studies for several growth centre study
areas.
52
However, the Federal Government ultimately participated actively in only four growth-
centre initiatives: Albury-Wodonga, Bathurst-Orange, Macarthur and Monarto, with expenditure
mostly for land acquisition of approximately $164 million over four budgets between 197374 and
197677.
53
Methods
To gauge the relative success of the Growth Centres, we initially conducted a quantitative exercise
to determine the extent to which the 1973 Growth Centre locations achieved the Cities Commis-
sion population projections for 2000.
54
Where the Cities Commission dened a range of future
populations, we have used the median gure. These projections devised in 1973 were vital for
the Cities Commissions initial planning and underpinned the urgency and desired credibility of
the entire Growth Centre programme. Despite criticisms of the exercise as naïve
55
even as recently
as 2019, Lyndsay Neilson, who was a key Cities Commission/DURD executive was adamant that
Table 1. Growth Centres and their existing and proposed populations. These 1973 projections are based on the
true ocial record. There was monitoring of growth potential and later gures used internally dier from these
slightly. Source: Based on Cities Commission (1973).
Growth Centre Type Census population 1971
Cities Commission 1973
projection for 2000
SE area of Melbourne (VIC) Metropolitan 127,591 1,639,000
Geelong (VIC) Regional 122,087 400,000
Albury-Wodonga (NSW/VIC) Regional 41,494 300,000
Gosford-Wyong (NSW) Metropolitan 89,000 344,000
Camden (NSW) Metropolitan 11,000 100,000
Campbelltown New City (NSW) Metropolitan 34,000 250,000
Appin New City (NSW) Metropolitan 1,000 150,000
Bathurst-Orange (NSW) Regional 41,381 300,000
Townsville (QLD) Regional 71,265 300,000
Moreton Region (QLD) Metropolitan 223,660 2,240,000
Rockhampton (QLD) Regional 49,164 97,000
Gladstone-Calliope (QLD) Regional 35,000 47,000
Bunbury (WA) Regional 17,779 75,000
Albany (WA) Regional 12,482 23,000
Perth Northwest Corridor (WA) Metropolitan 16,000 320,000
Geraldton (WA) Regional 15,118 40,000
Monarto (SA) Regional 264 150,000
51
Orchard, Shifting Visions in National Urban and Regional Policy 2.
52
Lloyd and Anderton, From Growth Centres to Growth Centres?.
53
Lloyd and Anderton, From Growth Centres to Growth Centres?.
54
Cities Commission, Report to the Australian Government.
55
Pennay, Making a City in the Country.
the projections were reasonable given the national concerns shared at that time about over-concen-
tration of population.
56
To evaluate such claims, we conducted an evaluative research method, in which researchers
compare a real phenomenon or practice and an ideal or abstract condition. Researchers typically
use evaluations to measure current conditions or outcomes (of an action, form, programme or
practice) against a predetermined standard.
57
The challenge for the team in conducting this evalua-
tive exercise was to compare the Cities Commission growth projections for areas that are not coter-
minous with the spatial units (statistical areas) that the Australian Bureau of Statistics now denes
to provide census data geographically. Nonetheless, we achieved relative parity by using a variety of
Australian Bureau of Statistics spatial units to conform as close as possible to the Cities Com-
mission identied areas.
58
Results
Our analysis of population data reveals that, by the census year of 2001, many of the Growth Centres
had grown substantially and insome cases exceeded their growth projection (e.g. Perths north-west
corridor). Indeed, on average, the regional Growth Centres achieved 66% of the population targets and
the metropolitan Growth Centres an average of 61% (Figure 2). Of course,isolated and aborted new city
attempts, such as Monarto and Appin New City south of Sydney, weigh heavily on such averages.
Moreover, the increase in population between 1973 and 2001 in many of the Growth Centres
was signicant in sheer numbers (Figure 3). The greatest population growth occurred in metropo-
litan Growth Centres adjacent to Australias burgeoning state capital cities, such as the Moreton
region built around the extended Brisbane metropolitan area to include the Gold and Sunshine
Coasts. Conversely, there was modest growth in regional Growth Centres such as Albury-
Wodonga. Reecting this, the metropolitan Growth Centres grew on average by around 420,000
people and the regional Growth Centres by 33,000 between 1973 and 2001.
Our results suggest that the populating of the range of prospective Growth Centres was more
successful than often regarded. Moreover, these gures are impressive, given the very short life-
span of the Cities Commission/DURD. The projection-actuality gap also needs to be appreciated
within the national context. Population projections at the time the Cities Commission was devel-
oping the Growth Centres programme indicated Australia would reach a population of 28 million
by 2000, yet ultimately this was much less at around 19 million. That on average two thirds of
aggregate projections were achieved makes it possible to suggest that if the involvement and assist-
ance of the Federal Government had been sustained over a longer period, more of the Growth
Centres might have achieved their population projections. Nevertheless, there are more nuances
in the circumstances of individual places.
Discussion
To develop our population-related results, in this section we discuss the growth of Growth Centre
study areas from the early 1970s on a state-by-state basis. To provide a broader context to the
56
Neilson, Interview with D Nichols and R Freestone.
57
Swaeld and Deming, Landscape Architecture Research.
58
We have excluded the Sydney metropolitan Growth centre of Holsworthy- Campbelltown because the study area denoted by the
Cities Commission is unable to be related to existing statistical boundaries. We also omitted the Tamar Region Growth Centre because
the lack of a population projection (Cities Commission, 1973b).
results, the discussion of the respective Growth Centres acknowledges some post-2000 circum-
stances. Subsequently, we further discuss our ndings by considering larger factors correlated
with dierential rates of population growth between 1973 and 2001.
Victoria
The projected and realized populations of the Victorian Growth Centres are shown in Figure 4. Ulti-
mately the south-east area of Melbourne and the Geelong region experienced approximately half the
growth projected by the Cities Commission for 2000. Nonetheless, the population increases were
Figure 2. The bar graph shows the Cities Commission population projection from 1973 for the year 2000 com-
pared to the actual population achieved and recorded in the 2001 census. The line graph shows the percentage of
the Cities Commission projection realized. Source: Authors.
steady if not substantial. The failure of these areas to reach their targets has been partly attributed to
the fact that the Victorian State Government was not interestedin engaging with the Common-
wealth Government.
59
Nonetheless, in-time the south-east region became a focus of State Govern-
ment planning for population growth.
60
Federal money allocated to Geelong was never expended
because of political disagreements with the state government. Geelong still became the focus of an
integrated regional planning exercise and much more recently federally-supported fast rail projects
aimed at improving inter-regional connectivity.
61
Recently, the Federal Government negotiated a
Figure 3. The bar graph shows the increase in population of the Growth Centres between the 1971 and 2001
census populations. Source: Authors.
59
Lloyd and Anderton, From Growth Centres to Growth Centres?,7.
60
Victorian State Government, Plan Melbourne 2017-2050.
61
Australian Government, Our plan for population, migration and better cities, 24.
City Dealfor Geelong which includes setting a plan for the future of a city and then aligning policy
and investments across all levels of governmentto boost well-planned growth.
62
Albury-Wodonga is a twin city located astride the Murray River, the Victorian-NSW state
boundary. It attracted over 60% of the $164 million in Growth Centre funding between 1973
and 1977.
63
Yet Albury-Wodonga reached only one-third of its population projection by 2000.
Nonetheless, it is considered the most successful regional Growth Centre
64
even if something of
an embattled survivor.
65
Albury-Wodongas relative success is attributable to its Development
Corporation (disestablished in 1995) which generally played a pragmatic, low-key role, playing
down its federal and philosophical origins and developing eective relationships with State Govern-
ments.
66
Moreover, major industries chose the location as a base for their operations
67
in part due
to its proximity to the major inland road and rail transport routes between Australias two largest
cities.
68
In time Albury-Wodonga has also become another key node in the Federal Governments
fast rail uplift to improve regional connectivity with capital cities.
69
Figure 4. These graphs show the Cities Commission population projections versus census data for the Victorian
growth centres. Source: Authors.
62
Ibid.
63
Freestone, Back to the future.
64
Lloyd and Anderton, From Growth Centres to Growth Centres?.
65
Orchard, Shifting Visions in National Urban and Regional Policy 2, 202.
66
Lloyd and Anderton, From Growth Centres to Growth Centres?.
67
Ibid.
68
Rushman, Towards New Cities in Australia.
69
Australian Government, Our Plan for Population, Migration and Better Cities, Lloyd and Anderton, From Growth Centres to Growth
Centres?
New South Wales
The projected and realized populations of the NSW Growth Centres are shown in Figure 5.The
sub-metropolitan centres of Gosford-Wyong and Campbelltown within the commuting shed of
Greater Sydney grew relatively strongly
70
with Gosford-Wyong almost reaching its projection
for 2000 and Campbelltown reaching two-thirds of its projection. The emergence of what became
known as the Macarthur region (which includes Campbelltown) in the 1980s was one of the most
successful ventures in the planned extension of Australias bulging metropolitan areas.
71
The
Macarthur Development Corporation was a vital player with its role gradually shifting from public
developer to facilitator of private development before being abolished in the late 1980s.
72
By the
2010s Campbelltown had been designated a metropolitan city clusterby the new Greater Sydney
Commission and Camden was also included in the Western Sydney City Dealbetween Federal
State and Local Governments to advance coordinated metropolitan planning and infrastructure
development.
73
All beneted from their proximity to Sydney.
74
The only failure was Appin New
City which never really got past the drawing board being overshadowed by the larger Macarthur
initiative to the north. As a comfortably small fringe community constrained by natural conserva-
tion and heritage issues, accelerated development has only come belatedly in the wake of the NSW
Governments COVID-19 fast track development programme. This programme is delivering fund-
ing for community infrastructure and is enabling rapid assessments of state signicant develop-
ments, in some cases by the planning minister.
75
Regardless, the story of the NSW metropolitan
Growth Centres was generally positive.
The growth levels envisaged for the regional Bathurst-Orange Growth Centre proved unrealistic as
most neutral commentators predicted
76
and its 2001 population was only approximately one-quarter
of the projection. The proposed new city between Bathurst-Orange for which a signicant land bank
was acquired quickly turned into a pipedream.
77
Bathurst-Orange was given Growth Centre status for
political reasons to reward the NSW Governments agreement to participate in the Albury-Wodonga
scheme.
78
After a rocky history, the Bathurst-Orange Development Corporation in serious debt was
dismantled in the 1980s, and much of the land acquired was sold back to farmers.
79
Queensland
The projected and realized populations of the Queensland Growth Centre contenders are shown in
Figure 6. The Moreton Region achieved its population projection in part because of the rapid
growth of Brisbane, Australias third-largest capital city. The prospective Queensland regional
centres also grew in population substantially. Indeed, some of the most imposing non-capital
city growth occurred in the regional centres of Rockhampton and Gladstone,
80
and to a lesser
degree Townsville. Ultimately Townsville and Rockhampton achieved approximately two-thirds
70
Anderton, From Growth Centres to Growth Centres?.
71
Ibid., 12.
72
Orchard, Shifting Visions in National Urban and Regional Policy 2.
73
Greater Sydney Commission, Greater Sydney Region Plan.
74
Gleeson, Rescuing Urban Regions.
75
Environmental conservation the focus of $70 million housing approval in Appin, Ministerial Media release. 30 October 2020. https://
www.planning.nsw.gov.au/News/2020/Environmental-conservation-the-focus-of-70-million-housing-approval-in-Appin.
76
Lloyd and Anderton, From Growth Centres to Growth Centres?
77
Ibid.
78
Orchard, Shifting Visions in National Urban and Regional Policy 2.
79
Ibid.
80
Lloyd and Anderton, From Growth Centres to Growth Centres?
of their 2000 projected populations and Gladstone/Calliope was just under its projection. That no
Queensland centre was elevated above study area status is explained by political disagreements
between the Whitlam Government and the conservative state administration of Premier Joh
Bjelke-Peterson, who proved recalcitrant to doing deals with the Federal Government.
Western Australia
The projected and realized populations of the Western Australian Growth Centre study areas are
shown in Figure 7. Western Australias metropolitan Growth Centre was the North-West corridor
Figure 5. These graphs show the Cities Commission population projections versus census data for the New South
Wales growth centres. Source: Authors.
of Perth, tentatively known as Salvado at the time, and now as Joondalup. The Australian Govern-
ment had supported technical planning studies and allocated funding for land acquisition, but with
the change of government in 1975 its commitment to this project dissipated and it was sub-
sequently driven by the state government.
81
The Perth North West corridor experienced growth
beyond the Cities Commission projection due to new freeway and rail connections, and the reloca-
tion of major government departments, with initial development steered by a dedicated new town
corporation (198192). In time Joondalup became a major Activity Centre in successive State Gov-
ernment metropolitan planning documents.
82
Of the regional Growth Centres, Albany exceeded its population projection, and Geraldton
achieved approximately three quarters of its 2000 projection and Bunbury about three-fths. All
are now designated state Regional Centres, identied for growth in the Western Australian
Regional Centres Development Plan.
83
South Australia
The projected and realized populations of the single South Australian Growth Centre are shown in
Figure 8. Monarto had a somewhat in-between status between metropolitan satellite and
Figure 6. These graphs show the Cities Commission population projections versus census data for the Queens-
land growth centres. Figure by the authors.
81
Stannage, Lakeside City: The Dreaming of Joondalup.
82
Western Australian Department of Planning, Directions 2031 and beyond.
83
Western Australian Planning Commission, State Planning Strategy.
autonomous regional centre.
84
But its primary rationale was to lessen population growth pressure
on Adelaide.
85
Monarto was the most aspirational of all the Growth Centres and the major failure.
An initiative of the State Labor Government and grudgingly supported by the Whitlam Govern-
ment because of serious doubts as to its growth prospects, Monarto was to be the only new city
Growth Centre on a greenelds site.
South Australian policymakers considered Monarto to be of great importance. They projected it
growing to become the second-largest city in the state and a viable regional alternative to Ade-
laide.
86
Detailed and cutting-edge environmental, social, architectural and urban design plans
were prepared.
87
However, the Tonkin Liberal state government, which came to oce in 1979,
facing an easing of metropolitan growth pressures and sensing popular disenchantment, cancelled
further planning. Federal loans were repaid, and most of the acquired land sold back for rural use.
88
The Monarto site is now reputedly the largest open-range zoo in the world.
Figure 7. These graphs show the Cities Commission population projections versus census data for the Western
Australian growth centres Figure by the authors.
84
Orchard, Shifting Visions in National Urban and Regional Policy 2.
85
Wanna, Urban Planning Under Social Democracythe Case of Monarto, South Australia.
86
Rushman, Towards New Cities in Australia.
87
Walker et al., Monartos Contested Landscape.
88
Orchard, Shifting Visions in National Urban and Regional Policy 2.
Key factors in growth performance
The discussion above hints at some of the considerations which account for the varied post-1970s
growth fortunes of the possible (and in some cases eventual) Growth Centre locations considered
by the Cites Commission. Below we further discuss our ndings by considering larger factors cor-
related with dierential rates of population growth between 1973 and 2001. Our treatment is
framed broadly by the variables noted earlier which the Cities Commission proposed should
inform Growth Centre selection.
89
These included proximity to capital cities and existing popu-
lations, economic growth potential, liveability (which we discuss principally in relation to coastal
proximity), the presence of existing infrastructure, and state government support.
One signicant demographic trend impacting on all centres must rst be noted because it pro-
vided support for political justications to wind back funding commitments with a change in gov-
ernment from 1975. This trend was the discovery that Australias population was suddenly growing
far more slowly than it had through the 1960s. The National Population Inquiry in 1975 seriously
challenged previous crisisprojections borne of the baby boomera and indicated that the quan-
tum of the population that might be redistributed by the turn of the century would be much
reduced.
90
As the Inquirys Chairman himself later summed up: the success of the growth centre
concept (already much modied) depended essentially upon continuing national, and therefore
metropolitan growth.
91
Figure 8. This graph shows the Cities Commission population projections versus census data for the Monarto
Growth Centre. Figure by the authors.
89
We have omitted to discuss the Cities Commission criterion that a centre must not negatively impact upon the environment of the
regionas such considerations were not a major driver of population growth. Cities Commission, Report to the Australian Government.
90
National Population Inquiry, Population and Australia.
91
Borrie, Population Trends and Policy, 21.
Existing populations
As our results show, decentralization of population to Growth Centres was most eective when
those centres had a substantial existing population or prospects thereof through a near-metropo-
litan location. Attempts to build entirely new cities confronted signicant start-up costs and the
stark challenge that cities generally require a substantial population threshold where the economic,
cultural, and social dynamism can successfully hold peopleand growth can be locked-into stea-
dily increase population over the longer term.
92
There was also competition from the many other
centres not selected for prioritized growth.
93
Such newventures typically run into a signicant
political problem: while voters in the area that is nominated may support the policy, there are una-
voidably more centres that are not selected.
94
By way of example, in the case of Monarto, South Australian country towns with high levels
of unemployment were aghast that the State Government was forging a completely new city
from farmland.
95
They were understandably upset that the Government chose not to boost
theirtowns and were fearful of bleeding population to Monarto.
96
Observed from the perspec-
tive of other struggling centres, such new-city ventures appeared to be a misappropriation of
state funds on a grand scale.
97
Similarly, in Western Australia, the Minister for Development
and Decentralisation in the early 1970s was conscious of this issue. As he reasoned, you, of
course, can imagine if Bunbury is chosen, the shrieks of horror that will emanate from Albany,
or vice versa.
98
While he believed that in-depth research could lead to the correct choice,the
rivalry between new cities and existing centres remained an enduring political problem.
99
This
issue was a longstanding conundrum for the Country Party, the Liberal Partys coalition partner
in most states, and accounts in large measure for its prolonged enthusiasm for dispersed decen-
tralization incentives because moving to a more selective basis meant picking winners and
losers.
Capital city proximity
The Cities Commission considered that Growth Centres should advance the welfareof the capital
cities by relieving their pressures of expansion.
100
Moreover, it recommended that Growth
Centres should oer some access to the existing capital cities to maintain social and family links
for their pioneering residents.
101
Our analysis shows that proximity to a capital city generally cor-
related with greater population growth from 1973 to 2001. Sydneys south-west corridor, Perths
north-west corridor and the Moreton region are the three best examples.
The larger and more fundamental problem here was that the Growth Centre programme mis-
judged the push-factorof the population from the capital cities to the regions. In basic terms, Aus-
tralians generally enjoyed living in substantial cities, and they intended to remain living in them.
102
As political scientist Don Aitken explained:
92
Bolleter, The ghost cities of Australia.
93
Rushman, Towards New Cities in Australia.
94
Neutze, The Case for New Cities in Australia.
95
Bolleter, The ghost cities of Australia.
96
Wanna, Urban Planning Under Social Democracythe Case of Monarto, South Australia.
97
Ibid., 266.
98
Graham, Decentralisation a Policy for Action, 16.
99
Bolleter, The Ghost Cities of Australia.
100
Cities Commission, Report to the Australian Government, 25.
101
Ibid.
102
Bolleter, The Ghost Cities of Australia.
It is not any use at all talking in vague phrases like the quality of life or mans ideal role or the environ-
ment because it just washes straight opeoples backs. The people in Sydney, like being in Sydney, can-
not really imagine that it is going to be more pleasant living anywhere else, have no intention of
moving.
103
The resultant absence of centrifugal forces driving population outwards from the capital cities to
the regions no doubt took the wind out of the sailsof the decentralization programme to the
regions.
In the Whitlam era, in all the capital cities, there was also a promise to propagate population
growth on considerable reserves of land on the urban periphery already reserved for suburban
expansion.
104
Regional Growth Centres had to compete with this market-driven suburban devel-
opment.
105
Observers ventured that only a signicant push factor such as the capital cities
being made unpleasant to reside in would have made the regional Growth Centres attractive
and indeed viable at a signicant scale.
106
While the sub-metropolitan Growth Centres fared better in terms of attracting population
growth, that has been at a cost to the relative autonomy to which strategic planning in the 1970s
aspired. Growth corridors were increasingly submerged within extensive, multi-nucleated urban
regions.
107
As such, the ideal proximity of the Growth Centres to the capital cities represented a
not entirely successful balancing act between being too close the capital city and risking being sub-
sumed, or being too far away and risk being starved of economic opportunity.
Coastal proximity
Urban economists have paid attention to the role of amenities in attracting people to cities
108
and
the Cities Commission recognized that potential Growth Centres should have the potential to oer
new opportunities for a variety of lifestylesand diverse culture and leisure activities.
109
For a coast
loving culture, Australians often equate liveability with access to the ocean and its more temperate
climes. While the Cities Commission made no particular reference to locating Growth Centres in
coastal regions, nonetheless our results indicate that access to the coast correlated with the popu-
lation increase in the Growth Centres.
Beyond the fundamental economic challenges, hampering possible inland regional Growth
Centres was the poor image of rural towns.
110
Urbanites from the cities tended to regard such
towns as dull, lacking in amenities, possessing poorer educational opportunities, and providing
more limited social contacts.
111
As one anonymous commentator put it, there is nothing to do
in the country town once the pubs shut.
112
Such attitudes highlight a key psychological dimension
to the problem of decentralization.
Inland locations also conicted with the long-standing penchant of Australians for climatically
favourable coastal centres.
113
Despite it generally being considered successful by the 1960s, Can-
berra was still often perceived as suering from freezing winter winds, plagues of ies in summer,
103
Aitken, The Political Likelihood of New Towns in Australia, 59.
104
Bolleter, The Ghost Cities of Australia.
105
Rushman, Towards New Cities in Australia.
106
Aitken in Nichols et al., Towards the Cities of the 21st Century,6.
107
Gleeson, Rescuing Urban Regions, 78.
108
Duranton and Puga, The Growth of Cities.
109
Cities Commission, Report to the Australian Government, 26.
110
Bolleter, The Ghost Cities of Australia.
111
Lonsdale, Manufacturing Decentralization, 327.
112
Ibid.
113
Bolleter, The ghost cities of Australia.
and with extremes of heat and cold more severe than on the coast.
114
Trying to tempt substantial
numbers of city residents to migrate inland to new or boosted cities was a signicant challenge as
exemplied by Bathurst-Orange west of the Great Dividing Range and, to a lesser degree, Albury-
Wodonga.
Infrastructure
The Cities Commission stipulated that potential Growth Centres should be within the existing
national infrastructure of capital investments and in particular proximate to ecient and eective
transportation including road, rail or air links.
115
Our research indicates that access to a major air-
portas was the case with all of the metropolitan Growth Centres generally correlated with popu-
lation growth. Surprisingly, the presence of a major seaport did not, perhaps because by 1973
almost all of the Growth Centres had regional rail connectivity to enable freight and passenger
movements. In terms of social and cultural infrastructure, while primary and secondary education
was readily catered for, one missing element was a major university. Indeed, almost all of Austra-
lias universities were located in the state capital cities, which no doubt beneted the sub-metropo-
litan Growth Centres. Subsequently, there was increasing competition to attract universities to
regional centres. Bendigo is one such example.
116
Indeed it was regarded that city politicians, cam-
paigning in regional towns prior to an election, had a standard promise if it has got a river, promise
them a dam: if not, then promise them a Centre for Adult Education.
117
State government support
The Cities Commission felt that the Federal Government should align Growth Centres with exist-
ing state government designated centres wherever possible. Indeed, it highlighted if the pro-
gramme of building new cities is to be successful, the sustained and combined support of
political leaders at all levels of government over many years is essential.
118
Despite aspersions
cast on DURDs relationship building, the City Commissions annual reports consistently express
the importance of the good working relationshipwith state governments.
119
While the Whitlam Government reached an agreement with the States on only four Growth
Centres before its demise almost all of the Growth Centre study areas in successive decades became
State Government nominated centres for planned population growth except for the much-mal-
igned Monarto and Appin New City. This situation suggests population decentralization to
regional or metropolitan Growth Centres depends, at least in part, on relatively stable long term
institutional and political commitment.
Economic growth potential
The Cities Commission was well-aware that the provision of local jobs would be essential to drive
population growth. As it explained, the Growth Centres Program will depend on the ability of
the various development corporations and governments to attract to the designated centres
the industrial and business establishments necessary to provide the employment opportunities
to attract and support rapid population growth.
120
Moreover, it expressed a preference that
114
Rushman, Towards New Cities in Australia.
115
Cities Commission, Report to the Australian Government.
116
Potts, The Power of the City in Dening the National and Regional in Education.
117
Ibid., 138.
118
Cities Commission, Report to the Australian Government, 31.
119
Cities Commission, Second annual report for year 1973-74,1.
120
Ibid., 16.
the Growth Centres go beyond possible secondary industry activities to include certain tertiary
activities producing for national markets.
121
This reected contemporary awareness of the struc-
tural reshaping of the global economy and the long term decline of traditional manufacturing as
the major growth sector.
122
Except for failures such as Monarto, the sub-metropolitan Growth Centres were able to thrive
because they benetted from access to the agglomeration economies of the larger cities.
123
The
regional decentralization programme struggled against centralizing economic forces which were
too powerful and too fundamentalto be overcome by the eorts that governments had been
able to make
124
particularly for an inland peripheral centre like Bathurst-Orange. The forces
were intense for all but resource extraction activities, displaying a historical dependency leading
to acceptance of metropolitan primacy as the norm
125
and upon which the new cities programme
was the rst serious assault. For one, the regional Growth Centres had to overcome the inertia of
substantial prior investments, such as manufacturing complexes, which were concentrated in the
capital cities.
126
For most companies, a move anywhere would be excessively expensive and highly
unpopular with sta.
127
An inadequate supply of labour, particularly professional and technical, in
the regions meant that employers who might have relocated to a regional location would have faced
diculties in attracting the required workforce.
128
Relocating government oces from the capital
cities provided a spurt to population growth but was generally unpopular and resisted by public
servants. The projected transfer of public servants to Bathurst-Orange and Albury-Wodonga
from Canberra, which itself was a decentralized metropolis, was understandably not well-
received.
129
With the decline of many agricultural regions,
130
it is not surprising that many of the regional
Growth Centres struggled to provide transformative employment gains. Even the relative success
story of Albury-Wodonga struggled to generate the required employment to bolster population
growth. As historian Bruce Pennay explains, this led to the canvassing of an increasingly desperate
array of economic drivers:
In time, policymakers and entrepreneurs proposed Albury-Wodonga as a distribution centre serving
national and international markets, a global training and development centre, an accommodation
centre in respect of tourism, boarding schools, health farms and camps, and nally a centre for selected
agricultural and manufacturing activities (including building cars).
131
Conclusion
This paper has considered Australias 1970s Growth Centres programme and contemplates
whether the population projections were as naïve and overambitious as has often been character-
ized. It has reviewed the years between 1970 and 1975 when there seemed to be a genuine possibility
that Australia would develop a new network of cities capable of developing to [the] take-opoint
121
Ibid., 12.
122
Fagan and Webber, Global Restructuring.
123
Duranton and Puga, The growth of cities.
124
Lonsdale, Manufacturing Decentralization, 328.
125
Rose, Dissent from Down Under.
126
Bolleter, The ghost cities of Australia.
127
Lonsdale, Manufacturing Decentralization.
128
Ibid.
129
Orchard, Whitlam and the Cities.
130
Kullmann, Design for Decline Landscape Architecture Strategies for the Western Australian Wheatbelt.
131
Pennay, Making a City in the Country, 179.
for substantial growth next century.
132
The idea had gestated through the 1960s into a putative pol-
itical consensus but proved short-lived as public policy. With the dismissal of the Whitlam Govern-
ment, DURD and its Growth Centre programme was wound down and dismantled. As Gleeson
explains when a big ship [like DURD] sinks, it takes everything around it with it.
133
This abrupt-
ness may also have discouraged a measured assessment of its Growth Centres policy.
With the benet of 15 years hindsight, Lloyd and Anderton concluded that, even acknowledging
errors (like Monarto) and the dierential performance of ocial centres, the policy was generally
on the right track, given the circumstances of the time.
134
Our work concludes similarly but with
more nuances of greater hindsight. If DURD had endured - less centralist in its modus operandi,
more nimble in its responses to counter urbanization trends, and with Federal Government fund-
ing sustained and private sector investment more skilfully leveraged - the gap between planned and
achieved Growth Centre populations may have been closed even more. Subsequently, the foun-
dation for a redistribution of the national urban population could have been made more secure.
The Growth Centre experience is instructive for those pursuing a vision of population decentra-
lization because it cautions against boosting centres without proximity to the coast, existing capital
cities and substantial existing populations. The expenditure required of both public and private sec-
tors is prodigious if substantive redistribution is to be pursued. The short life of DURD and the
Cities Commission and their inability to implement policies decisively remind us that governance
around decentralization needs to be bipartisan, stable and long term in its outlook. As Neutze
remarked in the preface to his 1965 book Economic Policy and the Size of Cities which was so inu-
ential in establishing a prima facie case for new cities in Australia: decentralization was everyones
policy but no-ones programme.
135
Historical lessons from this earlier period retain relevance. A new scale of economic, social and
environmental problems in Australias largest cities with Melbourne now predicted to be the
nations largest city in less than 50 years with a projected population between 8 and 12 million
136
- makes imperative the need for more considered and comprehensive public policy responses. The
need for a scale of planning requiring Federal Government coordination, direction and funding has
re-emerged. While the 1970s experience was in some respects problematic, Australia could do
much worse than a national settlement strategy informed by the aspiration, spatial and temporal
scope sketched by the Cities Commissions recommended new cities plan in 1973 given the chal-
lenges Australia faces in the twenty-rst century. Decentralization is not the answerto mitigating
urban problems.
137
But it comes into the mix. Accepting the urging of bodies such as the Planning
Institute of Australia,
138
the Australian Government has now accepted the need to develop a
national plan of settlement, to provide a national vision for our cities and regions across the
next fty years.
139
Decisive moves in that direction have been undoubtedly delayed by the
COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 which nonetheless revealed a strengthened population preference
for regional living. Any return to the 1970s scale of planning awaits a renewed federal government
involvement in urban matters, reminiscent of the period.
132
Jay, Towards Urban Strategies for Australia, 81.
133
Gleeson, The Greatest Spoiler, 60.
134
Lloyd and Anderton, From Growth Centres to Growth Centres?, 12.
135
Neilson, The New Cities Programme, 19.
136
Australian Bureau of Statistics, 3222.0 - Population Projections, Australia, 2017 (base) - 2066.
137
Hugo, Is Decentralisation The Answer?.
138
Planning Institute of Australia, Through the Lens: The Tipping Point.
139
Australian Government, Australian Government response to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Trans-
port and Cities report,4.
Acknowledgements
The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers of this paper who delivered a constructive and
encouraging review under challenging conditions.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the author(s).
Funding
This work was supported by Australian Research Council: [grant number DP190101093].
Notes on contributors
Dr Julian Bolleter is the Co-Director at the Australian Urban Design Research Centre at the University of
Western Australia. His role at the AUDRC also includes conducting research projects for the Australian
Research Council and Western Australian state government.
Robert Freestone is professor of planning in the School of Built Environment at the University of New South
Wales. He is a former president of the International Planning History Society and author of several books
including Urban Nation: Australias Planning Heritage (2010).
Dr Robert Cameron is an Associate Lecturer and researcher at the Australian Urban Design Research Centre
at the University of Western Australia. His research explores emerging technologies through interdisciplinary
design practice to better understand their impact upon the perception and production of cities.
George Wilkinson is a doctoral candidate at the Australian Urban Design Research Centre at the University of
Western Australia. His research examines Australian settlement patterns within the context of institutional
economics.
Dr Paula Hooper is a Healthway Research Fellow and Co-Director of the Australian Urban Design Research
Centre (AUDRC) within the School of Design at the University of Western Australia. Her multidisciplinary
research work has studied the impact of the built environment and urban design on health and wellbeing and
has had a strong focus on policy-relevance and research-translation, for which she has won numerous plan-
ning industry-based awards.
ORCID
Julian Bolleter https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1514-2007
Robert Freestone http://orcid.org/0000-0003-4265-5059
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